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Exclusive Daniel Ricciardo Q&A: Red Bull’s situation not out of control

08 May 2015

For the second successive year Daniel Ricciardo has had to live through a tumultuous start to the season with Red Bull. But while the team were able to stage a dramatic turnaround in 2014, it’s looking exceedingly less likely this time around, with chronic unreliability forcing the Australian to take on his fourth and final engine in Spain. But though the situation between Red Bull and Renault has been tense, Ricciardo says that all parties remain focused on returning the team to winning ways…

Q: After scoring three race wins last year and seeing your car come on leaps and bounds by the end of the season, the logical conclusion was for you to have a strong campaign in 2015. Alas, that hasn’t happened so far. How do you cope with such distorted expectations?

Daniel Ricciardo: Definitely at the end of last year we thought that in 2015 we’d get a few wins. If we managed to get three in 2014, then we will probably get six in 2015! Of course we’ve had to reassess our hopes…

Q: How painful is that process?

DR: Quite painful. Especially as last season I got a taste of success and I realised how much I enjoyed it - and all of the competition with the best guys out there. So yes, it is painful not having that right now, but tough times will make you stronger and if we get the performance back we will appreciate it much more.

Q: What did those three race wins do for you? Are you calmer because you know now that you can do it? That you can pass the monkey off your back to others?

DR: Those wins were, of course, very good for me. They’ve set me up for more. And they got me a lot of respect from others. Yes, our car is not competitive right now - so the team knows that when I am finishing in sixth or seventh the car cannot finish in third. They know my potential now. That eases my situation in some ways. Sure, they also pin expectations on you as you have been a race winner before, but that is fine - I want it that way. When I tell them that I’ve done a good race or qualifying - even if it is not near the podium - then they believe me.

Q: 2014 was arguably Sebastian Vettel’s worst season in F1 racing, yet you had your best season whilst driving the same car. What thoughts filled your mind? That he also puts his trousers on one leg at a time?

DR: Yes, definitely! (laughs) When you arrive in F1 and suddenly see all these guys you’ve watched on TV for some time you think: ‘wow, they are super heroes’. Then you race with them and win - brilliant. To go up against Seb last year was a good reality show for me.

Q: If you analyse the situation right now: how would you sum it up?

DR: Difficult - but not tragic.

Q: How much horsepower is missing?

DR: We don’t have a number, but I think it is significant enough. Obviously if we had the horsepower of Mercedes life would be easier. It is the same as last year. But we are trying.

Q: The RB10 was a difficult car. What about the RB11?

DR: Until now I’d say it was very similar. The updates from this weekend definitely help us, but after the little mileage that we did today it is difficult to say what reality is. In fact we expected that we would be limited today and we also knew that we would have to use the fourth engine for FP2. It would’ve been nice to get some more laps in - of course - but we did enough to give us plenty of data to look at. My guess is that there is still a huge potential for tomorrow’s qualifying. But coming back to your question: it is still a somewhat difficult car to drive.

Q: How is the team functioning under stress? On the outside it is a far cry from the happy years of 2010-2013…

DR: This is where a top team gets their respect - in such times. And this is where I understand if they really are a top team. If you are a top team you deal with your bad days professionally. Yes, in the media there have been a few things said, but behind it all - when I am in the factory - they all still have a target in mind - and that is winning again. It is not getting out of control.

Q: The teams with a longstanding history know that F1 success is cyclical. We have seen that with Williams and Ferrari, we see it now with McLaren. Before you joined Red Bull their curve had only ever gone in one direction: north. Now it is heading into the opposite direction. How difficult is it for two young drivers to be with a team when it experiences its first downturn?

DR: Let’s start with the good thing: nobody likes to lose here! That is another sign of a top team. They are not satisfied with - let’s say - fifth place. If they were then my alarm bells would ring. They want to go back to the top. But it takes a bit longer than we want it to - yes.

Q: But what if, as in the example of Williams, it takes something like ten years to turn the team back around? Is all that in the team?

DR: It is hard to distinguish the patience and the push in some way. Now is the time to be patient - so they are doing what they can - but if there is a solution for next year they will go for it in the shortest possible time.

Q: How are things with your team mate Daniil Kvyat? He’s had a load of bad luck so far…

DR: It’s okay, yeah. He doesn’t say a whole lot. But we’ve known each other before - so yes, it’s okay.

Q: What is the difference between having somebody like Seb beside you compared to someone like Daniil?

DR: I think for him (Daniil) coming into the team after last season - we did have three wins - he expected more. Maybe the hardest thing for Daniil is seeing Toro Rosso in front of us at some races, because maybe he was dreaming of podiums when he joined Red Bull Racing. So yes, that must be very challenging for him. Probably he just has to relax and understand the situation.

Q: From the situation right now, what are the expectations for the next couple of races? Do you have things up your sleeve that will propel you to the top again?

DR: The updates that are coming in the next weeks should help us, yes…

Q: But you are talking about the chassis not the power unit?

DR: Yes, only chassis. Power unit we have some small things, but there it is mainly a question of reliability. This weekend should be the first race where we can race the chassis set-up as we like it - and then let’s see where we are. Should put us closer!

Q: Helmut Marko said you already have your own trademark: the broad Ricciardo grin. What has to happen for us to see you laugh on the other side of your face?

DR: Ha! If we go all season without a podium!